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The eighth instalment in the most famous movie franchise of all-time is another solid extension of Star Wars lore.

It might not quite be the groundbreaking The Empire Strikes Back-alike entry die-hards may have been hoping for with the hype surrounding director Rian Johnson (Looper) – but there’s still so much to enjoy here.

So negatively, let’s get the minor nit-picks out of the way first so we can move onto the good stuff: A) It suffers from being darker (almost Rogue One-esque) one minute, then interspersing an almost juvenile comedic moment the next; B) that also leads to some clunkily meshed together scenes; C) which can be prominently seen in the sub-par Monte Carlo-type set-piece (complete with unnecessary political messages being blatantly touted) with Finn and Rose that unnecessarily stops the movie’s flow and is arguably the only low point; and D) if this sequence was scaled back the movie could have been ‘tauter’ compared to the two and half hour run-time (which could leave some younger kids a tad bored between action scenes).

But now that’s out of the way, the force is still truly strong with this sequel to The Force Awakens set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

After an exciting opening salvo, which sees a bombing campaign on a massive Star Destroyer ‘Juggernaut’ ship led by Oscar Isaac’s maverick pilot Poe Dameron as the Resistance tries to escape the clutches of The New Order, the film virtually starts where Awakens’ ends with Rey (Daisy Ridley) handing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) his lightsaber back.

But a ‘grumpy’ Luke doesn’t want to be found after feeling he failed the ‘Jedi’ faith when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turned on him, and she spends most of the first half of the film trying to persuade the legendary knight to potentially train her – and to assure him she won’t turn to the dark side like Ren did when seduced by Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke.

With generally three intertwining stories, headlined by Luke/Rey/Ren, the other two are taken up with the First Order – with the relentless General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) at the helm – chasing down the Resistance, including Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) and newcomer Vice Admiral Holdo (Jurassic Park’s Laura Dern); and the now-awoken Finn (John Boyega) teaming with another newcomer, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, to try and find a master codebreaker to secretly sneak onto the Star Destroyer and deactivate a tracking device to help aid the Resistance’s escape.

And the vast majority of Johnson’s work is right on the money, with a decent balance of heartfelt storyline, comedic relief and action sequences, making this a truly worthwhile entry in the Star Wars canon.

Particularly the aforementioned opening scene, along with a Snoke/Rey/Ren confrontation, a nod to the AT-AT walker battle on Hoth, and the return of Hamill’s Skywalker being some of the stand-out high-points, that puts The Last Jedi at least on the same level as The Force Awakens – but in a completely different way.

Never ever reaching a five-star movie, but never near a three-star experience – this sequel stays competently in four-star territory throughout.

With other previous favourites thrown in like Anthony Daniels’ C3-PO, Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata, Gwendoline Christie’s stormtrooper chief Captain Phasma, Chewie, R2-D2 and BB-8 – along with much more Snoke this time out – Johnson does a sterling job in keeping it all sewn together, and despite one or two strays off track, packs in a whole string of emotions to give you a lot of bang for your cinematic buck.

For the sum of its parts The Last Jedi probably deserves to be properly reviewed again after Abrams finishes the Skywalker saga with the ninth part in two years time – because being looked at in isolation may take away some of the fine work Johnson has done here.

And he deserves immense credit for getting the ‘middle-part slog’ out of the way to set it all up nicely for Abrams– who can go wherever he wants with the final instalment.

It probably doesn’t have the instant replay value as Awakens in a nostalgic sense, but it already deserves another viewing as so much is packed in. And seeing Hamill in action one more time makes seeing it again worth it for him alone.

And if not just for him, then for the late Carrie Fisher, who goes out on a notable high – with one particularly spine-tingling scene involving her – that makes The Last Jedi a memorable ‘last’ outing for Star Wars’ princess.

May the force be with her… always.

Gavin Miller

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Cast: Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, Benicio Del Toro, Gwendoline Christie, Jimmy Vee, Veronica Ngo, Joonas Suotamo, Adrian Edmondson, Warwick Davis, Lupita Nyong’o And The Voices Of Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Frank Oz

Running Time: 2 Hrs32 Mins

Director: Rian Johnson

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